Just announced, Sarah Howe is the winner of the 2015 TSEliot Prize with her first published collection.
She is presented with a cheque for 20,000 pounds. The winning author and collection was announced this evening at a dinner in Covent Garden, London, 11th January 2016.
The nine others on the shortlist receive 1,500 pounds each.
Sarah Howe had also won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award for 2015.
I read/reviewed this volume, along with the other first collection, Beauty/Beauty by Rebecca Perry in a previous blog. As I did not read the other 8, I cant have a valid opinion but I do know that Loop of Jade was an emotive and vivid read for myself in recalling my several visits to HongKong between 15 and twenty years ago.
The sights, the smells, the crashing together of poverty and wealth especially the worlds of high-rise finance versus bamboo shacks literally clinging to the almost cliff-edges of all those fighting for a life in HongKong, apparently for a better life.
For me her poetry brings with it the diffision of family, the differences in life and the mystery of what-if. Plus the discovery of self in ones genetic make up that grows through any personal memories and spreads with the unconscious. This is additional to the simple beauty and pleasure of reading it!
Whether or not this was intended is no matter. Her poetry is persistant and adds a little understanding to everyone’s life. This collection ought to stand a test of time, for me it certainly will. I must also thank the bookseller whose preference and suggestion by rate of sale encouraged me to review this title: Loop of Jade, Winner of the 2015 T S Eliot Prize,
Good news for 10 poets with this recent announcement but still time for you to read their work before the winner is discovered on 11th January, 2016.
This year the chair of Judges is Pascale Petit, the other judges are Kei Miller and Ahren Warner.
The shortlist of 10 was chosen from a total of 142 books submitted. The Poetry Book Society pointed out that short listed poets included were of international stature and indeed of international origins such as Australia, Jamaica and the US. The 10 also contained two Scots, four previous winners and two first collections.
Mark Doty: Deep Lane (Cape Poetry)
Tracey Herd: Not in this World (Bloodaxe)
Selima Hill: Jutland (Bloodaxe)
Sarah Howe: Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus)
Tim Liardet: The World Before Snow (Carcanet)
Les Murray: Waiting for the Past (Carcanet)
Sean O’Brien: The Beautiful Librarians (Picador)
Don Pateson: 40 Sonnets (Faber)
Rebecca Perry: Beauty/Beauty (Bloodaxe)
Claudia Rankine: Citizen; An American Lyric (Penguin)
The winner will be announced on Monday 11th January 2016. The successful poet will receive a cheque for £20,000, donated by the TS Eliot Estate. Shortlisted poets will each receive £1500.
(T S Eliot Estate increased its support for 2015 to become the sole supporter of this prize.)
Claudia Rankine of Jamaica won the recent Forward Prize with Citizen and also the NBCC award in the US.
Loop of Jade and Beauty/Beauty are the ‘first collections’ and toward the other end of the scale; Deep Lane, is the ninth collection of the well respected American poet, Mark Doty, also a previous winner of this prize. Murray and O’Brien have also previously won the T S Eliot Prize and so too has Don Paterson (twice).
The chair, Pascale Petit was fulsome with praise of all submissions saying “This is a fantastic year for poetry…….many that didnt make it are books we love. But we were unanimous about our final list.” and of the short list…….”every book on the list is so ambitious- they’re reaching for the stars”.
‘The T S Eliot Prize Readings’. Will take place on Sunday 10th January, 2016 at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London.
Note, I include some covers to lighten the page, I am not offering any opinion by it.
From page 5: “the anthology offers a concise Lives of the Poets along with the poems, forming a capsule chronicle of the evolving story of the art of poetry as practiced over fifteen decades by women throughout the English-speaking world.”
I could stop there as this is exactly what the book succeeds in doing. However, to expand a little: 100 poems (strictly speaking more, as some are snuck in through the bigraphical pages), by 48 women.
As in all good books, start from the first page. The introduction sets the reason and formula. You will have the explanations, historical and poetical, all beautifully, concisely explained of 150 years of women in poetry. An ideal start for a student, or any reader.
The journey starts in 1830 with the birth of Emily Dickinson and moves through to the most recent with writings of Louise Edrich, born 1954. Most are USA born or resided there much of their lives but several other nationalities do appear including Edith Sitwell and Stevie Smith. The beauty of this book for me is that by reading the biographies and then the selected poem, or two, sometime more, you follow a history of change as well as poetry. Joseph Parisi gives superbly written brief lives, working style and fulsome bibliographic details for each poet. Times were changing and he points out their creative strengths within their settings with clarity and objectivity. The literary world in which many lived often shows contacts with writers and artists that create eddies and pools of thought in the reader’s mind. Ezra Pound and T S Eliot seem to have an influence in many of these writers progress.
Historically I have been mostly an ‘English’ reader though not entirely ignorant of USA et al poetry so this title, with its format of information and poetry is an ideal way of expanding my awareness. The biographical and historical context given makes it ideal to integrate with the readers initial knowledge and the bibliography offers a choice to read poets’ work chronologically if preferred. Also, it is refreshing to have the variety of poems in this style rather than in a ‘subject themed’ anthology. No disrespect to the other anthologies as they serve a very useful purpose but in this book we have very readable information on poets and their poetry. I could pick out assorted names but I must highlight a beautiful poem, ‘the pomegranite’ by Eavan Boland and the three by May Swenson that are each different but together are able to demonstrate the palpable emotion of poetry.
All in all this book will almost guarantee to enthuse the reader to further reading of these modern women, modern poets.
Do I have a grumble? Maybe I would have liked a few more poems but that is just greedy. Possibly a note listing key poems not included? Probably included in the bibliographies, just read them. Anyway, what is better than discovering your own favourites than by starting here?
There is an interesting article I have linked, in the Guardian, poem of the week (some long time ago now) by Carol Rumen on ‘Gray’s Elegy’. She offers a link to the complete poem but includes the first fifteen verses and brief analysis on those and further. Carol Rumen’s page is a site well worth visiting for interesting thoughts on poetry far and wide…..
The first verse or two of ‘Elegy written in a country churchyard’ may well be the ones that today’s older generation recall from memory though I suspect many will recall having read the verses rather than memorising them. Having said that you only have to read the first two verses a few times and the repetitive rhythm and rhyme-scheme which is natural heart-beat to us, combined with the descriptive alliteration throughout lends itself to memory. Even today.
Here the hesitation creeps in because poetry today is not what it used to be! A bit like nostalgia, if you will forgive the aside. In her article Carol bemoans the fact that the educational system of today no longer caters for ‘impoverished young Miltons and Hampdens’ and worries for their literacy in current financial predicaments for students and the school curriculum. A short paragraph that highlights a failing in the system for poetry, maybe literature, even literacy but to focus on the specifics of poetry, it does not consider that the bulk of poetry gets ever larger as years go by. The language and styles of poetry have exploded, maybe not exponentially but massively, since the death of Queen Victoria. The movements from the Americas and the changes in writing style of people crossing the period into the First World War such as ‘the Georgians’ and T S Eliot and numerous others of the period, some of whom, like Edward Thomas produced good poetry but had short productive (poetic) lives. Life -style was changing as industry and technology was changing, all in mod and speed.
Today, language and rhythms from around the world are part of everyday life…and therefore poetry. So, my point is that though we may all sadden at the loss of poetry (literature) in schools in general, what could be described as relevant literature is now so wide open to discussion across time and distance, now almost removed by technology, that it is inevitable some once-revered lines should be cut. Relevance and connectivity with the audience of today is where the excitement should be created. A student of poetry, like any artist, will always find their way to the past in order to re-invent the future. So much to talk about, so little time! I suspect Carol knows all of this and much more and has taken a brief line to make a single point and I have simplisticly taken the bait!
Back to Gray’s Elegy:
This was a hugely successful publication when first published, many editions rushed out as its fame spread. A great poem of the day but Thomas Gray never published much more than a thousand lines of poetry in total.
I never learned the poem by heart, have probably not read many more than the listed stanzas. I have, however, visited the memorial put up by John Penn to the memory of Thomas Gray and the hugely successful publication of the ‘elegy’. As children we used to walk as a family group to the memorial every Easter Sunday, weather permitting, and a few other times too! The reason why was never given, the question why never asked. I suspect is was just a nice walk but may have misadvertantly planted that early germ of mystery about poets and poetry. Recently, in the interest of soothing old imaginings, I have been back several times and being in the close vicinity of the memorial has been interesting. The same memory is there. The grass surround, the ha-ha and the field with the tree standing magnificently defiant in the meadow. Get the position right and it’s branches seem to give a green canopy over the sarcophagus shaped memorial.
Reading around the subject leads to the suggestion that most of the poem was written when Gray was at Cambridge though the quiet inspiration no doubt flowed from his frequent visits as he lived close by. The solitude of this place with view of trees and hedge at edge of the now extended churchyard can still be felt and easily imagined if you just filter your mind back over two hundred years. This is as a lone visitor today. If the small car-park across the road is full then that quiet spot may well be lost to snap and chatter of enthusiasts. The monument itself must be several hundred yards from the church and out of sight of most, except for the odd farm-hand. All so quiet in late 18th century English countryside.
The small copse of trees backdropping the monument and its part-surrounding ha-ha have been owned by the National Trust for some years. In 2014 the copse is due to be planted with wild flowers and the ha-ha highlighted and reconstructed where needed.
A photo to the west, to include the church did not work. It was too far away and only the roof-ridge and top of tower were visible. The bare tree looks too bleak. In summer the foliage create a nice ‘mantle’ for the monument.
The small church of St Giles’ is worth a visit and you can pass Gray’s tomb and that of his mother and her sister. The side chapel was renovated last century and the bells moved by John Penn’s suggestion and money. However, the plate above shows monument with church in view, with a small spire. There is none. Look at plate here for more accuracy. There is enough ivy for all! The figure sitting with back to the church wall may be a reader of the poem rather than Gray writing it as two tombs are clearly visibly. You choose! Gray’s churchyard is very pleasant and worth a visit.
I have not read that a spire ecer existed. Note above, that the bells were moved by John Penn’s suggestion and money, hence the roofing to the tower as seen in the photograph.
Which neatly leads me to that tolling bell and ivy-mantled tower: The plate offers all the ivy you may need but it is more than likely that the sound and site in mind at the time of writing was actually the Church of St. Laurence in Upton-cum-Chalvey, some six miles away. This bell tolling nightly curfew across the fields to Eton College. Possibly heard from St. Giles but more likely just from his time at Eton. The tombs by the church wall, sadly, are not very eloquent today and as several photos are included I decided against them at this time. Quiet reflection brought together ideal elements for Gray and the poem stands for itself. It is interesting to read and see the influences on any ‘art’ but it is still the ‘artist’ that fuses the idea into substance.
St. Laurence is another delightful little church. It fell into serious dereliction and was saved from collapse in 1850 and rebuilt and re-dedicated in 1851. It had been a wooden sided Parish church built on elements of a Norman church, some of which can be seen. Today the tower is not ivy- clad but the church and churchyard sit in a quiet corner a little away from the now Parish church of St Mary’s, Slough.
Sir William Herschel and wife are buried in a vault near the tower.
I have wandered away from the poem, have not quoted nor analysed but hope I have added a tiny bit of colour and place of today. Look back at the illustration of the church and see and think of the solitary reader, and enjoy.
With her fourth time on the T S Eliot Poetry Prize shortlist (2002, 2005, 2009 and 2013) Sinead Morrissey wins for 2013 with her collection: ‘Parallax’.
Congratulations from Poetryparc. She wins the prize of £15,000.
‘Parallax’ was also shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Prize but beaten to the finish by Michael Symmons Roberts’s ‘Drysalter’, as previously mentioned in Poetryparc.
The TS Eliot Poetry Prize was first presented in 1993. It is organized by the Poetry Book Society and supported by the TS Eliot estate and the investment company Aurum.
The shortlist for 2013 was:
Dannie Abse……..Speak, Old Parrot
Moniza Alvi………At The Time of Partition
Anne Carson……..Red Doc
Helen Mort………Division Street
Daljit Nagra………Ramayana: A Retelling
Maurice Riordan………The Water Stealer
Robin Robertson……..Hill of Doors
Michael Symmons Roberts……. Drysalter
George Szirtes…….Bad Machine
And a note for the Dylan Thomas fans: 2014 is the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas Many plans are afoot throughout South Wales both to celebrate the man and his writings and to welcome the large number of visitors expected from around the world.
I have to say that I have great fondness for ‘Undermilkwood’ but have to pick and choose from his poetry as too much at a time is too much! But great to read in small selections, which I suppose goes for most things, let alone poets and writers.